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E3 2013 Hands-On: Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)

Mario Kart 8 is a title that hardly needs an introduction. Every Nintendo platform after the Super Nintendo and Game Boy Advance has launched some iteration of Mario Kart, each one as intriguing as the next. We got a chance to take Mario Kart 8 out for a spin, and it's just as fun as it has ever been.

While the title itself isn't anything special, it's worth noting that the 8 in the title is a bit disproportionate, and that's the big thing with this game. Mario Kart 8 is going to be full of loop-the-loops, and off-the-walls kart racing.

mariokart8-2The demo featured two different courses: one along the Mushroom Kingdom countryside around Princess Peach's castle and another in a kind of island resort (but it's not Isle Delfino).

Players have the option of using either the Wii U GamePad, the Wii Remote, or the Wii U Pro Controller. Unfortunately, the Wii U Pro Controller wasn't made available for the demo, but the other methods were just fine. On the Wii U GamePad, the A button is the gas, the right shoulder button is for drifting, which you can manipulate with the left analog stick. You can also use the left analog stick to maneuver the vehicle. Players also could make use of the gyroscope to steer with the GamePad — whichever they prefer. The Wii Remote method of control is the exact same method as in Mario Kart Wii, and players with that controller have no choice but to steer with motion controls because the directional buttons are used for items.

Playing with the GamePad is as comfortable as the rest of series was on regular controller. The weird part, though, was that the tablet screen didn't show the course map. Instead it was a button that activates your character's horn. It's a nice touch, but it's about as useful as the taunt button in the Mario Party game boards — useful to be annoying.

mariokart8-1Controls have never been an issue with the game, and it's definitely not an issue with Mario Kart 8.

As for the off-the-walls racing, which the game should be known for, there weren't a lot of opportunities in the racetracks we were playing for us to really drive on walls. So while this should be a big deal, there wasn't much to look forward to in the demo levels' course design.

On top of that, a lot of the "equalizer" items that the series is notorious for never showed up. Since I was stuck with the Wii Remote, I found myself in 11th place a lot, but even being that far behind never got me a blue shell, which I'm now wondering if it's even in the full game.

While course design might be an issue with the demo, the game is just flat out beautiful. It's probably only because we aren't used to seeing a Nintendo game in 1080 HD, but it's bright, colorful, and fun-looking.

Mario Kart 8 wasn't a must-play game on our list, because we already know what kind of fun it'll be. But whatever way you look at it, it's shaping up to be an asset to anybody's small Wii U library when it comes out next year.

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